SIMON NOTT: Cheltenham Friday Evening

TALES FROM THE BETTING RING

Hunter Chase Evening – Cheltenham 05/05/17

The Hunter Chase evening has long been one of my favourites. It’s when the Gold Cup and the festival already seem a distant memory with flat classics on the horizon, but to the point to point fraternity who turn up in their droves, this is their festival. That given the enthusiasm they bring is palpable. Having said that, it was never that great as far as working for a bookmaker went. There’d be a plethora of two quid bets followed by a bottle each-way from a shrewdie from somewhere you’d never been on a 14/1 shot you’ve never heard of. The bookies need to be on their toes, which of course makes it more fun.

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The opening Brian Babbage Memorial Open Hunters’ Chase saw a bit of money on the rails but I didn’t hear of anything that would have ever been described of noteworthy. There was a move for Sam Callallaro from 6/1 into 4/1 but best-backed horse of the race was the 7/4 winning jolly Fergal O’Brien’s Are They Your Own ridden with some confidence by Brodie Hampson to kick the evening off badly for the bookies.

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The Point to Point faithful travel from far and wide for this meeting. ‘Farmer’ Derek from a farm from near where I live in Witheridge,  Devon appeared at my shoulder as if from nowhere. He nodded sage-like to his racecard and informed me that ‘They took Excitable Island all the way from Essex to Tavistock to qualify for this’ then scampered off before I could quiz him more about the 12/1 shot. Ian on the Jack Bevan (est 1897) joint said that Chosen Lucky had been the best-backed horse of the race. Hardly surprising then that his firm were all smiles after Woodfleet won the Connolly’s Red Mills Intermediate Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters’ Chase at 12/1. I don’t know if Farmer Derek was on Excitable Island each-way, but if he was he’d have been delighted to see it stay on late from almost as far back the field as Tavistock to bag second also at 12/1.

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Betting seemed to come alive for the Hunt Staff Benefit Society Open Hunters’ Chase with money for both Alskamatic and Always Archie at around the 11/4 mark. Ex mega-layer Stephen Little was hovering around the rail looking to snapping up the value, gamekeeper turned poacher in recent years. It’s doubtful he or many others were on the 25/1 winner Knockaderry Flyer which made recent graduate of the British Racing School Lily Pinchin the toast of the ring.

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I was chatting to my mate Armaloft Alex before the Timico Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Hunters’ Chase. Being the epitome of a racecourse regular it was hardly surprising to see him but I asked what he was doing here anyway. He replied that he’d come with a mate who had a runner in the last. His mate’s horse is Poole Master, quite apt as Alex hails from one of the more desirable addresses the Dorset area. I obviously had to ask of its chances to which he replied in all seriousness, ‘Well it might run well, just OK or badly’. Yes cheers for that Alex. With that they were off, Barel Of Laughs was backed from 10/11 into 4/7 including a bet of £400/£600 and duly won. It was a close run thing though, scrambling home by a short head from 11/1 shot and bookie’s result The Wealerdealer.  After the judge confirmed it had won Alex exhaled a breath that suggested he’d held it all the way up the hill. ‘Couldn’t see it getting beat’ he spluttered as he pulled out a crumpled and damp betting slip in triumph. It’s lucky they don’t ask for prints anymore.

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It’s a lesson I should have learned ages ago, never assume anyone has won. I said hello to Neville on the rails and mentioned that it must be welcome to get some results. Without looking up he said ‘We lost on the 25/1 shot’. Enough said, I moved swiftly on. I’m hoping Neville got his whack on the 4/5 jolly Popaway in the Autovillage Subaru Mares’ Open Hunters’ Chase Frielia won the race by 51 lengths at 9/1 win under jockey Brad Gibbs. ‘Shame his name’s not Barry’ smiled jovial Armaloft, before the punchline ‘The bookies are ‘Stayin’ Alive’ after that result.’ Boom Boom!

There was more mirth from whom I shall only describe as this blog’s Northern correspondent. Apparently there is a particular course where they are really stamping down on people surreptitiously betting on laptops especially  in-running. He had a tale where a bookmaker was seen wandering away from his joint with his computer under his arm as the race was off. It transpired that he was followed into the Gents by what can only be described as overzealous security who suddenly appeared over the cubicle door as our man was having pony, not on one. You don’t get that at Cheltenham.  

What you do get are 17-runner Book Now For The McCoy Awards Open Hunters’ Chase’s. It looked a very hard race to fathom which was reflected in 5/1 joint-favourites at the off. 6/1 winner Dolatulo was no good for the books though none of them would have stood it for the Bank Of England.

As we built up to the last race of Cheltenham’s season there was no sign of tale-telling Northern Correspondent, he probably got a flyer as it’s a long way back up that way. There was no Armaloft to chat to either, after all he had a mate with a runner in the GX Landrover Open Hunters’ Chase so was no doubt hobnobbing in the parade ring, sadly there was no fairy tale Poole Master fell when beaten at the second last. Full Trottle was sent off the 9/4 joint favourite and concluded the season by winning for the punters from fast closing 25/1 shot Good Egg who’d have finished the evening nicely for the bookies had it won.

So that’s Cheltenham concluded for another season, as always it’s been tremendous, see you all again in October. Next stop Chester, it’s all about the flat.

© Simon Nott 


SIMON NOTT is a freelance racing blogger and author of The Skint Mob. More details at simonnott.co.uk